Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thursday, December 11, 2008

This picture from Whistle Down the Wind takes my breath away! I want to see this show again with Eric. I hope someone brings it back!

To see more of Eric Kunze, see the fansite at

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Resting in Jesus in Perilous Times

David Wilkerson of Times Square Church in New York City sends out a monthly newsletter. This month his message was especially pertinent. If you are living in fear and are in need of peace this article is for you:

Saturday, November 01, 2008

I had the privilege of addressing the women at our church. Some asked for the transcript of my talk and I am putting a link here.

The Joy of the Lord is My Strength
"A Life of Intimacy with God is Characterized by Joy." ~Oswald Chambers~
To continue reading, click on:

Monday, October 27, 2008

Sunny California

I think I was meant to be a California girl. While preparing for my second trip to the state in the last three months, I checked the weather for Orange County each day. Each day, the weather for Michigan was cool, rainy and cloudy, while each day in Orange County was sun, sun, and more sun. This weekend was more of the same. Georg was reporting snow predictions from home, while I was walking Laguna Beach in bare feet and 85 degree sunny weather.

The reason for my trip was to see Eric perform in "Grease" with the Tustin Light Opera Company in Irvine. I wasn't going to come out again this soon after seeing Eric in Sacramento's "Evita" in August. But the possibility of seeing him morph into yet another diametrically opposite role was strong and I decided if I could obtain frequent flyer tickets I would go for it. Surprisingly, I did get my tickets and they were into Santa Ana's John Wayne airport to boot, the airport closest to the theater.

My next challenge was to find a cheap hotel. I had researched some hotels in the area and the cheapest I could find was upwards of $120 a night for a pretty basic place, such as LaQuinta. Someone recommended Priceline on Fodors and I decided to try it. It was my first Priceline experience, one which I am sure to repeat many times in the future. The hotel I got for $64 a night was a four star spa/hotel twenty minutes from the theater. The Renaissance ClubSport is a brand new hotel, completely modern, beautifully furnished and geared toward the health conscious and sports conscious individual. It has a 75,000 sq foot fitness club and huge outdoor pool, hot tub and lounge area with firepits. We even have free wireless internet access. I compared car rental prices and the cheapest rental was on Hotwire, for $11.99 a day plus taxes.

My weekend would prove to be even cheaper, because a friend from St. Louis (Sherry who is also an Eric Kunze fan) decided to fly out and we shared the cost of the room. Sherry and I spent the day on Saturday driving to several area beaches to soak up some rays and watch the surfers. In the evening we attended the theater together. We had a blast watching our favorite actor pretend to be 18 again. His dancing was worth the trip alone. His friends call him a "triple threat" (Singing, dancing, acting). Eric's parents were there on Saturday night and we had a lovely visit with them and with Eric afterward. We capped the evening off by enjoying drinks on the pool veranda in the lounge chairs at one of the firepits.

During the day, we explored some of the area beaches. We were privileged to witness a wedding on Laguna Beach. The weather at home was in the 40's, while we sunned ourselves and watched the surfers in mid-80's temperatures.

For more Eric Kunze information, check out the fansite:

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Travel Writing

(Click images to enlarge)

I've been reading and writing for a while on the forums at When I begin trip planning that is always the first place I do my research. You begin to trust certain posters comments and, since there is no advertising allowed, they are usually impartial and honest. I have even met some of the regulars in my travels. After my trip reports I write a report to pay back the help I received. The editors at Fodors read the forums and choose certain comments to be published in their travel guides. If your comments are published they offer you a free book. That is how I received Fodors Las Vegas 2008 and Caribbean 2009 guides. Even though it is just a few lines, it is a thrill to read your own words in an honest-to-goodness book!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Eric's Gifts and "Evita" in Sacramento with Jessica

(Click on)James 1:17 With a heart full of gratitude for such a wonderful summer of travel and theater!

Since January, I have been on a mission to see Eric Kunze perform as many times as possible. I'd seen him first in "Whistle Down the Wind" and went back several times, taking Jessica with me. In June I was able to go to Boston to see him in "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." July was St. Louis with Georg for "Miss Saigon" and now it was time for "Evita" in Sacramento. I invited Jessica to come with me because I knew she would love the play and seeing Eric again.

Our trip was filled with blessings and perfection. The blessings were from God. The perfection was from Eric. More about that later! All our flights and connections were on time, we had no problem with our luggage, our rental car was upgraded free, the GPS I had brought with me got us to our hotel in no time, and we got a beautiful quiet corner room at the Sheraton Grand on the 21st floor, complete with two picture windows with window seats a breathtaking view and pillows so Jess and I could each have our spot for morning devotions. We could even see the theater from our room.

This morning we went to the workout room and then walked around the area to get our bearings. We found a place to rent bikes and a place to get a manicure/pedicure. We had an amazing outdoor breakfast within view of the beautiful Capitol building. Jess had a Thai chicken soup and bagel and my omelet was perfection: smoked Gouda, roasted red peppers, mushrooms and basil pesto. It will definitely become my signature omelet from now on. We walked and walked and ended up in Old Sacramento. The original old buildings look like the set of some black and white Western, as if we could see a shoot out on the street at any moment. The area is filled with shops and restaurants and we were able to pick up some souvenirs to bring home and Jess bought some postcards.

We wanted to get in some sun and a swim before the theater, so we changed into our suits and headed over to the Hyatt, which was two blocks away. The Sheraton pool was being renovated and they have an agreement with the other hotel for their guests. The Hyatt pool was amazing, complete with misters to keep us cool. I enjoyed a Mojito and Jess proclaimed that we had to come here every day from now on.

After a shower and umpteen changes of clothing in search for the perfect outfit, we walked over to McCormick and Schmick for our pre-theater dinner. I had the seared ahi tuna appetizer and soft shell crab, while Jess had blackened catfish and seafood chowder.
The theater was within walking distance and we had a nice stroll to walk off our dinner. Jane H was meeting us at the theater. She had bid on and won lunch with Eric so she had lots of good stories to tell from her day. She is here for the week and is attending every performance.

The show was amazing. It was theater in the round so the actors had to play to the audience in all directions and they did a fantastic job. Here is where the perfection part comes in. We watched Eric perform this part four times in a row. Each time it was fascinating to watch him as his character evolved from night to night. Even on the last night when he was completely drained and not feeling well he performed with energy, enthusiasm and charisma. He made it his best performance yet. Much of the 2200 person audience lept to their feet when he came on for his curtain call. This role was yet another facet to his talent, playing the role of a cynical, sarcastic and sometimes angry revolutionary. In one of the scenes we are able to witness his ability to dance as well, during the waltz sequence with Evita. (I have found out since that he is called by some a "triple threat" because of his acting, singing, dancing talents.) The actors entered and exited the stage from the aisles through the audience. Eric made the run up the steep ramp from the stage to the exit many times in one night. At the end of the week we can bet his his legs were pretty sore. The stage itself revolved and the center could be raised and lowered depending on the scene. Eric had grown a short beard for this role and his hair was longer than the last time we saw him. (The promo photos below were taken pre-beard.) Jessica and I decided we really like him in a beard and longish hair.

After the show, Jessica and Jane were waiting for me at the stage door when my phone rang. It was Eric explaining he wouldn't be coming out that way because he was supposed to meet with the season subscribers who had attended that evening. He asked if we wanted to come back and attend a little cabaret concert. I said of course, and he sent someone out to get us. We were seated and treated to champagne. Some of the cast were performing on a small stage. The surprise was that after a short while they let us in to meet the cast and get autographs. I had made up fans as souvenirs for the fanclub and Eric blushed and pretended to be embarassed by them. He signed the fans for us and we made arrangements to get in contact tomorrow to meet. Jess and I floated back to the hotel, our heads filled with the sights and sounds of the evening. We had tickets again for the Thursday, Friday and Sunday performances.

The next day we took a leisurely drive to Napa and ended up at Copia where we had lunch at Julia's Kitchen. Jessica and I share an interest in food and cooking, so this was the perfect place for us to indulge those two interests. There are wine tasting stations where you buy a credit card which you insert into your choice of tastings. I am still into Chardonnays and concluded that my favorite was the Rombauer, which I happily have two bottles of in my room! After lunch for dessert we finished off the card with tastings of the ice wine.

Our lunch at Julia's Kitchen was delicious. Perhaps a bit pricey for what we ordered, but I was very happy with our choice. My favorite, fois gras, was on the menu and I had a fabulous lobster and avocado salad. Jessica ordered the mushroom soup and crispy duck breast. The bread basket had five different kinds of bread, all house made and fresh. Afterward, we took a walk in the gardens and made our way to Yountville. Just driving aimlessly in the area was enjoyable. Much of the area reminded me of wine country in France. I kept thinking of the Russell Crowe film " A Good Year". Yountville was charming as well and we had our coffee and dessert at Bouchon Bakery.
The espresso macarons are to die for! We enjoyed sitting in the outdoor dining alcove, just people and dog watching, while the birds enjoyed our crumbs.

Our drive took a little further, just so I could take a photo of The French Laundry and say I had at least stood in front of this renowned restaurant. Lots of photo ops across the street too, of the picturesque gardens belonging to the restaurant. It's a good thing we allowed ourselves plenty of time to get back to Sacramento, because even though it is a Friday, not a weekend, we ran into lots of traffic. Took us a little over an hour to get there and 2-1/2 hours to get back. We were a little worried on the way because we had the theater again in the evening. But we made it in plenty of time. We stopped for Vietnamese Pho to carry back to the hotel and ended up with enough food for a small army. Felt really bad about throwing most of it out the next day, since we didn't have a fridge in the room.
The next morning we got a bit of a late start for our day trip to San Francisco and with the traffic we arrived noonish. It was really cold and windy, people were wearing parkas, so we scrapped plans for the bike ride across the Golden Gate immediately. Instead we took a boat trip out into the bay which went under the bridge and around Alcatraz. While it was windy, wavy and wet, it was a great experience and gave us views we might not otherwise have had. The guy running the tour was really funny and entertaining. I got some great photos while hanging over the side of the rocking boat and getting doused with salt spray.

The next thing we wanted to do was the cable car. We took one look at the 100+ people waiting in line at the foot of Hyde St. and decided to hoof it up the street instead. (We missed our workout this morning). We went all the way up and down again on Lombard St. It was fun strolling through all neighborhoods, all the way to Chinatown. On the way, we stumbled onto an Italian festival in Little Italy and had espresso and wine in a lovely espresso bar whose name escapes me just now. In Chinatown we strolled into a tea shop and ended up doing a tea tasting and getting quite an education about how to prepare and drink tea. We asked our server about a good, clean place to have Chinese food and she sent us to Washington Bakery on Washington Street. She certainly steered us right. The only problem is we ordered way too much, as usual and once again our leftovers went to waste in our room.

By this time it was 10:00pm. We had walked since noon from Fisherman's Wharf, up Hyde Street, down Lombard Street, into North Beach, Chinatown and then down to Pier 1and took the Embarcadero all the way back to Fisherman's Wharf again. No need to feel bad we didn't get our workout this morning! This was the only night we weren't going to see Evita and we were humming the tunes the whole time.

Now it was Sunday: the Big Day. I had planned a fanclub luncheon to meet some of the wonderful ladies I have corresponded with via email from the Eric Kunze fansite. I had settled on Morgans in the Sheraton Grand because it was convenient and private. They set up a long table for me which we decorated with the Eric fans I had brought with me from home.

First I had a visit with a friend I had gotten to know from the Fodor's travel site and his great wife. Then people started to gather and finally, in came Eric with his parents who had flown up for the last performance. We had a great time visiting and asking Eric and his parents questions. Hardly anyone knew each other, yet we felt like a big happy family. And we were so privileged they had made time for us out of their hectic schedule, especially Eric. The ladies lingered long after Eric left and none of us wanted to say goodbye.

That evening was the last performance and the end of a very long season for Eric. We were privileged to sit with Eric's parents at this performance, which made it even more enjoyable. (They are wonderful, warm people. It's not surprising Eric is as nice as he is.) Eric wasn't feeling well that day, but he nevertheless turned in a stellar performance. The best of all of the four we had seen. He adds a note at the end of "And the Money Kept Rolling In (And Out)" when he goes into a falsetto that is so high and pitch perfect it seems super human to me. He is standing at the center of the stage surrounded by the other players and we, the audience, can't believe our ears. He received thunderous applause and cheers each night at the end of the number each night.

After the show, we gathered with his folks at the stage door. He had just a few moments to come out to say goodbye, as his obligations took him to the patron area again. We sadly took our leave of them all and walked back to the hotel to prepare for an early departure in the morning. It will be a while before I am able to see Eric perform again. I will sit tight, with my fingers crossed, that it won't be too long, or too far away!

View a slideshow (click on photos to see larger images with descriptions):
(Click on "Sacramento 2008)

To see more of Eric, see the fansite at:

Monday, July 28, 2008

"The Heat is on in Saigon"! Maggi Does the Muny

Our purpose for visiting St. Louis was to see Eric in "Miss Saigon". We flew Southwest airlines for the first time, because it was the cheapest fare available and I was very favorably impressed. There was no line checking in at the airport, the attendants were dressed casually in shorts and polo shirts and cracked jokes the whole flight. We arrived on time and our baggage was at the carousel in minutes. We had decided to rent a car, since taking the public transit would still not put us near our hotel. Georg had brought along the GPS and it guided us there in a half hour. We knew it would be hot and humid in St. Louis and it certainly was! Thank God for swimming pools and air conditioning.

The Chase Park Plaza had been recommended to us and we got a special rate. Our one bedroom suite on the eighth floor overlooking the pool was very comfortable. We had a living room with a flat screen TV, which made Georg happy. He quickly ensconsed himself on the sofa with the remote. I was happy with daily visits to their gym and pool. The pool cafe was delightful for late night drinks and appetisers, while live entertainment was available inside. I loved the location as well, within easy walking distance down Euclid in the Central West End for shops and restaurants and right at the entrance to Forest Park, where the Muny and the zoo are located.

Our first stop was at Straub's Market a few blocks down from the hotel so we could stock up on beverages and snacks. It was pretty pricey and I was happy I had brought the two bottles of Chardonnay from home. Georg was tired and I wasn't so I decided I'd attend the theater that evening alone and take a chance on a free ticket. (A certain number of tickets in the 11,000 seat outdoor theater are set aside for free seats.) I had been in contact with Sherry, who had emailed me from the Eric Kunze fansite and who wanted to meet me. We actually met at the theater that night and hit it off immediately. We had a common bond in our interest in Eric, after all.

The theater had a ballpark atmosphere, complete with refreshment vendors strolling the aisles before the performance and during intermission. We even stood for the National Anthem before the show began. But as soon as the music began we were transported to Saigon, 1975. The Engineer and the bar girls are onstage, the Marines are singing "The Heat is on in Saigon" when suddenly two Marines stride on stage left. At that moment, I don't even recognize Eric as he strides onstage in his camouflage uniform. He looks totally different from the last time I saw him in his loincloth as Joseph a few weeks earlier. His gait, his body language and demeanor have completely changed. As he lolls on a chair smoking a cigarette the expression on his face is at the same time jaded, disillusioned and bored. (I had my high powered binoculars after all!) It is a delight to watch those emotions slowly fall away as he notices and becomes interested in Kim, an innocent young girl who has fallen into the Engineer's trap. The love story which develops between them is achingly beautiful and the songs they sing together haunt me still. Theirs is a tragic story and doesn't end well. The famous evacuation scene in "Miss Saigon" was even more dramatic because in this open air venue they were able to use an actual helicopter. Now that I am home, every time I hear a helicopter I am instantly transported back to St. Louis.

That first night Sherry and I went back to the stage door to congratulate Eric. There was a throng of people but Eric saw us immediately and came over to greet us. While we were waiting, one of the cast, a young man who was a fan of Eric recognized me from the fansite. Afterward, Sherry and I drove back to the Chase and met Georg for drinks at the poolside cafe. We discovered many common interests and made plans to see each other again that weekend.

The next day, Georg and I had a late breakfast at Kopperman's Deli in the CWE, strolled a bit and took some photos. Later, another wonderful woman named Jill who had contacted me from the fansite picked me up from the hotel and we went for coffee. She brought her daughter Kelsey, who had been in a show with Eric last year and they were both fans of his. We had a wonderful visit together and we intend to stay in touch. Kelsey is a singer and hopes to have a musical career. I put them in touch with Sherry, who is a drama coach and who could help guide their choices for Kelsey. God works in strange ways!

Georg and I drove to the Muny that evening. It was a lovely balmy summer night and we parked in such a way for a fast getaway afterward. We had a long walk into the park past the Gazebo and the pond filled with turtles and fish. The setting sun cast a glow which was enchanting. Each evening I enjoyed the show more and more as I became more familiar with the nuances in the performances. The stage is vast, but good use was made of the space with the large cast doing formations with tall red flags, a huge undulating parade dragon and brilliant costuming. The revolving part of the stage emphasized the heartbreaking drama of the fence which separated Chris and Kim as they were trying to reach each other during the chaos in the evacuation scene. It was a very dramatic and physically exhausting role for Eric because he puts his heart and soul into everything he does and it shows onstage. Even those people sitting way in the back of the theater must have been able to feel his passion. After the show is over, it must take him awhile to regain his normal optimistic personality.

We had the great privilege that evening of meeting Eric privately at the poolside cafe. Georg enjoyed his company as much as I did. We had a nice long visit and I asked him a great many questions. He must feel as though he's with Barbara Walters when he's with me. (At least I don't make him cry). I bring a long list with me because when we're together my mind goes completely blank. I never run out of questions! Poor Eric. He's gracious, polite, funny, has a great sense of humor, he's intelligent and has a great many outside interests.

Since we were up so late the night before, we slept in quite late. After my workout we decided to visit the St. Louis Basilica. It is famous for it's installation of 41.5 million glass pieces. It's the largest mosaic collection in the world. A basilica is a large and important church that has been granted special ceremonial rites by the Pope. The St. Louis church was designated a basilica by Pope John Paul II in 1997.

Later, we had our one expensive meal of the vacation and we picked a doozy. Chez Leon, a French restaurant was right up our alley. A fixed price menu enabled us each to order three items so we could taste and share. I always order foie gras when it's on the menu, so that was my first course and probably the best preparation of this dish I've had to date. It was followed by veal chops with wild mushrooms and a white wine sauce and for dessert Grand Marnier souffle. Georg had the foie gras as well, with duck breast and cheese for dessert. It was a really memorable meal and I'd go there often if we lived nearby.

Then it was time to get ready for the theater a third time. I could have repeated this pattern night after night without getting tired of it. I was already getting a little sad our wonderful weekend was coming to an end. It amazes me that people can consistently repeat excellent performances night after night without a missed line, or a wrong note. I know Eric would disagree, he's seldom satisfied with a performance, but as a musician I was not able to find any flaws. This time at the stage door, Eric waved us inside and showed us around backstage. The vast back lot is built around huge beautiful 100 year old trees. He showed us where the sets are constructed. They were already getting ready for the next show and were tearing down the Miss Saigon set temporarily for a rehearsal. He took us into his dressing room and offered us cookies which had been baked for him by a nun who always comes to see his shows. His fans really run the gamut from 10 year old kids to nuns! Then we were standing on the stage looking out at the 11,000 seats. I don't think I would remember my name faced with that audience. We sadly made our goodbyes and headed back to the hotel. Once again, I met up with Sherry at the poolside cafe for one last visit.

Our Sunday was uneventful. We were able to see Eric to say goodbye and talked about seeing each other in Sacramento in a few short weeks hence. Our flight home, aside from a slight delay due to mechanical trouble was smooth. I don't know what I'm going to do when this summer is over. I will be suffering serious withdrawal. But this will go down in my memory as one of the most enjoyable summers ever!

To see more of Eric, go to: